A Cider Love Story

October 15, 2018 Updated: October 15, 2018

Annie Bystryn first fell in love with cider while studying abroad in Ireland and working in London after college.

That love was rekindled in the fall of 2016 when she tasted some “incredible cider” at a restaurant in the Hudson Valley. She set out to find ciders by the same maker and couldn’t find any. “And, it was a local cidery!” she recalled. 

“It spurred almost a year’s worth of research into why it was hard to find incredible fine ciders and what the possible solutions could be,” she said.

After meeting cider makers across the United States, Bystryn started Cider in Love, an online curator and shop for artisanal ciders.

The Epoch Times: You use the term “heritage cider.” What do you mean by that?

Annie Bystryn: The most commonly available ciders are usually made with apples meant for eating or cooking. These are called “modern” ciders and a lot of people like them.

Heritage cider is made from different apples—heirloom and cider-specific apples, like bittersweets, bittersharps, wild apples, and even crab apples. Heritage makers approach cidermaking like an art, using these rarer apples like paints on a canvas. Many of them use traditional and winemaking techniques to ferment and age their ciders, and they often work in small batches. As a result, the aromas and flavors of heritage cider are complex and nuanced, with a real sense of place. You can experience notes ranging from citrus to stone fruit to earthiness to a little funk. It’s a diverse and thoroughly delicious world. Cider in Love curates only the best heritage cider bottles from the independent small makers around the country.

There are a few other key differences to note between heritage cider and modern cider:

How it’s made: Heritage cider is labor and time intensive. You can taste the craftsmanship in the glass.

The bottle: Most heritage ciders come in a traditional 750ml bottle, like a wine. Most mass-produced cider comes in cans.

Alcohol content: Heritage cider usually has a slightly higher ABV—around 7 to 8 percent versus a modern mass-produced cider, with an ABV around 4 to 6 percent.

The Epoch Times: What notes, flavors, or aromas have surprised you during cider tastings?

Ms. Bystryn: The number one surprise we have at tastings is that not all cider is sweet. There is this terrible myth out there that cider tastes like melted Jolly Ranchers. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is truly a cider for every taste and preference—from bone dry to tart, from fruity to smoky.

Some of my favorite ciders, such as Redbyrd’s Workman Dry, are bone dry yet fruit-forward, without any sweetness.

The Epoch Times: What producers are you especially excited about at the moment?

Ms. Bystryn: I’m thrilled to be working with all of my makers. They are the true heroes in the world of heritage cider. If I can help bring their extraordinary bottles to a larger audience, then I’ve done my bit.

Right now, I’m excited about Carr’s Ciderhouse based in northwestern Massachusetts. They are an incredible husband-and-wife team who are dedicated to growing and using unsprayed apples to make heritage cider and a range of other artisanal cider products, like cider syrups and switchels. They just launched a delicious and gorgeous cookbook, “Ciderhouse Cookbook.” It’s a great way to dive into the pleasures of the cider-verse.

The Epoch Times: Heading into fall, what ciders and pairings would you recommend?

Ms. Bystryn: Joy! ‘Tis autumn! Hello, harvest time. We love jumping into crunchy piles of leaves, hiking on a bright crisp day, and making friends with every butternut squash we meet. And cider captures autumn vibes better than any other tipple.

Here are my favorite ciders and pairings for fall:

Snowdrift Cliffbreaks Blend

An orchardist’s dream, literally. The gang at Snowdrift have been growing apples for generations. This is a bold and semi-sweet cider that shows off what an apple can do. Think harvest bliss. Rich flavors of dried fruits and caramel, balanced by grapefruit acidity and lovely tannins all swirled with a coconut aroma. Sip this with some roasted butternut squash—or butternut squash ravioli.

Tilted Shed Barred Rock Barrel-Aged Cider

All of autumn’s goodies concentrated in a bottle. This is a dry cider, yet it’s full of fall treats. A vanilla aroma and light smoke notes, with mouth-filling flavors of caramel apple. It’s made from organic heirloom apples that are fermented with raisins, molasses, and brown sugar, and then aged in whiskey barrels. Yum! Open this one next to a log fire and curl up for the evening.

Redbyrd Workman Dry

The cider to share with any friend still suffering under the illusion that all ciders are sweet. Workman Dry is just that. Bone dry yet full of flavor. A paradox? No, just great heritage cider. Bursting with bubbles, this is a real crowd-pleaser. Full of lemon and tropical fruit notes and a mouth-watering tartness yet absolutely no sweetness. If you want to showcase heritage cider at any fall festivity, order a case of this. Everyone adores this bottle. Everyone.

Sweet Potatoes

We love bringing out the earthy sweetness of sweet potatoes with a sweet ice cider, like Slyboro Ice Harvest. The natural honey and fruit aromas come from the freezing fresh cider to concentrate its flavors. Paired together, this ice cider makes roasted sweet potatoes taste almost caramelized.

Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey and cider go ridiculously well together—both as a pairing and also in cooking. We recommend Liberty’s Columbia Crabapple for a traditional and simple roast turkey. It’s an iconic pairing; the bubbles and tartness match the savory meat and add to the celebration.